Back to the Basics 12-Week Program

Weight lifting is for people of all fitness levels! You do not have to do crazy advanced exercises or kill yourself overtraining in the gym to get results. As long as you are working and challenging yourself, you will get there. We all have to start somewhere, and basic exercises that allow you to master your form and create a strong mind-muscle connection are truly the best place.

This program is designed to jump start your fitness regimen by focusing on basic exercises so that you can master proper form and strengthen your mind-muscle connection. Why is this important? For one, proper form is essential to getting results and minimizing your risk of injury. Second, mind-muscle connection is what allows you to engage the right muscles so that you are getting the most out of each exercise. Even though this program focuses on basic exercises, it is for ALL LEVELS. Whether you are a beginner or a gym-pro, you can benefit from getting back to the basics!


  • Always warm up with a 10-15 minute brisk walk or light jog, or dynamic stretching if you’re familiar with that. I also recommend doing a few arm circles and hip circles to warm up those joints.
  • Each workout consists of 4 circuits of 2-3 exercises. Perform all sets for each circuit before moving on to the next circuit.
  • Rest about 30 seconds between exercises and 60 seconds between circuits. Take more rest if needed, but try not to let your heart rate drop too much.
  • Always use proper form and biomechanics! If you do not know how to perform an exercise, please look it up online, ask a fitness professional at your gym, and/or contact us for instructions.
  • Make sure you’re lifting the right amount of weight to work your muscles and to minimize your risk of injury. If you’re unsure of how much weight to lift, please read my previous blog post about the topic. You should also consult with a fitness professional at your gym.
  • The program is divided into 3 phases. Each phase is 4 weeks. Even though the foundation exercises do not change, you should progress for each phase. I’ve included the progressions for each phase in the chart. I have also included suggested modifications and progressions below.
  • Always cool down for about 8-10 minutes and stretch to help recovery, maintain flexibility, and reduce risk of injury.

Where there are modification and progression options, choose the exercise that is right for your level. Please, do not feel like you have to do the more challenging exercises to get results! As long as you’re working your body, you will improve. The same goes for people at more advanced levels — don’t feel like you have to do the most challenging exercise to benefit from this program! You might be surprised how challenging it can be to get back to the basics and really focus on form and technique. Also, if you are used to performing 8-12 reps, you might be pleasantly surprised at how challenging increasing those reps can be even using slightly lighter weight.

The Program



Weeks 1-4

Workout 1


To progress the exercise without changing the exercise, you can either increase the weight, the reps, or both. Specific progressions are as follows:

Chest Press, seated machine: (1) Supine (laying face up) machine; (2) Standing using cables; (3) Supine with dumbbells; (4) Supine with barbell (spotter recommended)

Row, machine: (1) Row with dumbbells, one arm at a time; (2) Seated cable row; (3) Barbell row; (4) Chin up

Step up: (1) Increase height of step (or bench or box); (2) Hold dumbbells in hands; (3) Add glute raise at top of each step; (4) Add a knee lift at the top of each step (5) Add a shoulder press or bicep curl at the top of each step; (6) Add a bicep curl followed by a shoulder press, or a shoulder press followed by a triceps extension, at the top of each step

Crunch: (1) Table-top crunch; (2) Crunch with legs extended straight up; (3) Hold a flat weight behind head

Reverse Crunch: (1) Extend legs straight; (2) Add hip raise at the top of the crunch; (3) Hold a medicine ball or weight between your feet or ankles; (4) Make it a v-up

Side Hip Raise: (1) Come up onto feet; (2) hold a weight at hip

Remember, progressions at this stage are OPTIONAL. In fact, I recommend starting with the foundation exercises listed in the chart before trying any of these progressions

Workout 2


As above, you can progress each exercise by increasing the weight, reps, or both.

Squat: (1) Add weight by holding a dumbbell; (2) Add a calf raise at the top of the squat; (3) Squat using the Smith Machine; (4) Barbell squat (spotter recommended)

Chest press: To modify, stick with the seated machine chest press. To progress, see above.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row: To modify, stick with the machine row. To progress, see above.

Lunge: (1) Alternating lunge stepping back; (2) Alternating lunge stepping forward; (3) Walking lunge; (4) Walking lunge with a glute raise at the top of each lunge; (5) Add weight by holding dumbbells in hands or a barbell on shoulders

Lat Pull Down: To modify, use a medium grip. (1) Shorten or widen your grip, i.e., place your hands slightly closer together or farther apart; (2) Assisted pull up; (3) Un-assisted pull up

Curtsy Lunge: (1) Add a one-arm shoulder press at the top of the lunge (using arm on the same side as your back leg); (2) add a side leg lift at the top of the lunge (lifting back leg)

Hammer Curl: (1) Bicep curl; (2) Preacher curl

Crunch on Stability Ball: (1) Move the ball lower on your back; (2) Hold a flat weight behind your head

Oblique Crunch: (1) Add a knee pull (so you are basically doing a bicycle but just on one side at a time instead of alternating sides); (2) Add a straight leg extension

Leg Raise: To modify, stick to the bent-knee reverse crunch. To progress, see above.

Weeks 5-8

Progressions are italicized. For optional modifications and progressions, see above.

Workout 1


Workout 2


Weeks 9-12

Progressions are italicized. For optional modifications and progressions, see above.

Workout 1


Workout 2


Remember, these charts are just to provide a guideline. Listen to your body and do what feels right. Lift the weight that is right for you, perform the number of sets and reps that are right for you, and do the modifications and progressions that are right for you. And, most importantly, don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

Please feel free to like, comment on, and/or share this program if you like it!


3 thoughts on “Back to the Basics 12-Week Program

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